Many familiar elements, but the characterization is strong in this adventure tale.



To save her father, a girl journeys with her friends to find a magical relic in Peaslee’s debut middle-grade fantasy series starter.

In Ferry Village, Maine, sixth-grader Josephine “JoJo” Mallory’s life is pretty ordinary—until the morning that she meets a leprechaun. He informs her that her father is being held in the prison fortress Shadowrock (formerly known as “Camelot”) by the evil sorcerer Pewtris Grimm’s three witch-daughters. They mean to torture him to find the location of a prized object, the Chrimeus, “Merlin’s most powerful magical legacy.” JoJo must travel through an underground portal to Erristan, where Shadowrock is, to locate the Chrimeus and trade it for her dad’s life. Luckily, she has her two best friends to help: Marcella “Marcy” DiPietro is awkward, physically and socially, but is the smartest kid in sixth grade, and Johnny Dowling—called “Trip” to commemorate his scoring a triple hat-trick (nine goals) in one hockey game—is the school’s star athlete. In Erristan, the three learn that Grimm has almost rid the land of Free Knights, the successors to the Knights of the Round Table who’ve guarded the Chrimeus since the fall of Camelot a thousand years ago. The magical object, one of five, is crucial to restoring the Free Knights to fight Grimm. With help from members of the local resistance, the youngsters face a series of challenges, and JoJo learns startling truths. Although the portal-quest format is all too standard in YA fantasy adventure, Peaslee does brings a few unusual changes to the Arthurian legend and shows some invention with his magical creatures, such as talking spiders and “Fast Turtles,” which characters use for transportation. The strongest feature of the book, though, is how Trip and Marcy, two very different people, learn to appreciate each other’s strengths and sympathize with their respective weaknesses. JoJo’s ability to maintain close friendships with both of them suggests her own nascent leadership ability, setting the stage for her to take on greater responsibilities in future volumes of this series.

Many familiar elements, but the characterization is strong in this adventure tale.

Pub Date: Feb. 14, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-5229-6191-8

Page Count: 356

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Aug. 25, 2017

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A jam-packed opener sure to satisfy lovers of the princess genre.


From the Diary of an Ice Princess series

Ice princess Lina must navigate family and school in this early chapter read.

The family picnic is today. This is not a typical gathering, since Lina’s maternal relatives are a royal family of Windtamers who have power over the weather and live in castles floating on clouds. Lina herself is mixed race, with black hair and a tan complexion like her Asian-presenting mother’s; her Groundling father appears to be a white human. While making a grand entrance at the castle of her grandfather, the North Wind, she fails to successfully ride a gust of wind and crashes in front of her entire family. This prompts her stern grandfather to ask that Lina move in with him so he can teach her to control her powers. Desperate to avoid this, Lina and her friend Claudia, who is black, get Lina accepted at the Hilltop Science and Arts Academy. Lina’s parents allow her to go as long as she does lessons with grandpa on Saturdays. However, fitting in at a Groundling school is rough, especially when your powers start freak winter storms! With the story unfurling in diary format, bright-pink–highlighted grayscale illustrations help move the plot along. There are slight gaps in the storytelling and the pacing is occasionally uneven, but Lina is full of spunk and promotes self-acceptance.

A jam-packed opener sure to satisfy lovers of the princess genre. (Fantasy. 5-8)

Pub Date: June 25, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-338-35393-8

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: March 27, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2019

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Gripping and pretty dark—but, in the end, food, family, friendship, and straight facts win out over guile, greed, and terror.


Rowling buffs up a tale she told her own children about a small, idyllic kingdom nearly destroyed by corrupt officials.

In the peaceful land of Cornucopia, the Ickabog has always been regarded as a legendary menace until two devious nobles play so successfully on the fears of naïve King Fred the Fearless that the once-prosperous land is devastated by ruinous taxes supposedly spent on defense while protesters are suppressed and the populace is terrorized by nighttime rampages. Pastry chef Bertha Beamish organizes a breakout from the local dungeon just as her son, Bert, and his friend Daisy Dovetail arrive…with the last Ickabog, who turns out to be real after all. Along with full plates of just deserts for both heroes and villains, the story then dishes up a metaphorical lagniappe in which the monster reveals the origins of the human race. The author frames her story as a set of ruminations on how evil can grow and people can come to believe unfounded lies. She embeds these themes in an engrossing, tightly written adventure centered on a stomach-wrenching reign of terror. The story features color illustrations by U.S. and Canadian children selected through an online contest. Most characters are cued as White in the text; a few illustrations include diverse representation.

Gripping and pretty dark—but, in the end, food, family, friendship, and straight facts win out over guile, greed, and terror. (Fantasy. 10-13)

Pub Date: Nov. 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-338-73287-0

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Nov. 17, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2020

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